LSU Faculty Senate Publications

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Message from the President: Those who watch the operations of the administration from the outside are easily tempted to regard the basis of administrative action as the will to power or a taste for conspiracy or a lust for publicity. To be sure, all these passions flow through the administrative nervous system. The inside experience of the academic approximation of power, however, reveals a far different prime directive: fear. Readers of Shakespeare’s tragedies and history plays know the story all too well: a person with formidable talents who may or may not be suited to rule a domain and who falls through one circumstance or another into an influential position only to find that the crown is heavier than expected and that what once looked like minor obstacles now look like glaring goblins ready to lurch, lunge, and otherwise terrify. “Administration” is, of course, an abstraction. Seldom can the systemic fear in “the administration” be tracked down to one person, yet it is always there, everywhere, always in one or the other of the cabinets in the tangle of buildings that runs around the northeast quadrant of the central campus. Of what is this diffuse fear? Most salient is the fear that we all face, that of the passage of time. In its most altruistic mode, the administration fears that the progress of the last two decades might be reversed on its watch (forgetting that the folks who have repeatedly come in and out of power over those same decades have also been involved in more than a few blunders) or by its successors. In its most Shakespearian mood—when thinking about the partitioning of the kingdom for future generations—the administration in its corporate mind and body shivers at the release of power to those who have reached the same age and experience as they had when they first aspired to the throne. A report issued by the LSU System in 2006 noted the graying of the administration and the necessity to cultivate talent in succeeding generations, yet, so far, the grip on power (and, occasionally on post-retirement salaries or late-career raises) has not eased. The second origin of fear—what might be regarded as“Winter’s Tale Syndrome”rather than the aforementioned“King Lear Syndrome”—revolves around the superior record-keeping of our time. There is a reason that LSU is so slow to come up with a history of itself or to provide adequate support for archives, and that is anxiety about what the record of the regime might reveal. Then we can mix in a variantstrain of“Macbeth Syndrome”: the fear that the next generation might have been so wellschooled in cutthroat tactics that it is better to hold on to that heavy old crown than to let down one’s guard for even a moment. Oh, and, yes, let us not forget that lost thirty-eighth play,“The Tragedy of Jindal the Great,” characterized by a fear that some or other servant of the state apparatus might send down word that someone had been less than compliant in enforcing the latest madcap scheme from the statehouse. And then there is “Hamlet Syndrome”: the fear to do anything at all less it set off some unidentified calamity. If an analogy to the writings of the Bard of Avon can lead usto so many sources of fear, think how many others must abound! What the administration most needs, as it attempts to follow through with something, is a big dose of its own favorite anodyne, assessment. How many of these fears have produced any of the worriedly anticipated consequences? How often has fear produced anything at all? Take, for example, the anxiety surrounding budget crisis planning. Is it really the case that faculty members won’t engage in flight to other jobs simply because impending cuts to their programs have not been announced? Does anyone imagine that flight is not happening already, at least to the extent possible? Perhaps what our chieftains need, as they unwrap their holiday gifts, is a reminder that the key to a permanent legacy is more likely courage than anxiety. With all good wishes, Kevin L. Cope, Faculty Senate President